Cypress trees in autumn
Leaf-peeping Southern style

Bald cypress trees in Georgia

Fall foliage is the hallmark of autumn, when thoughts turn to flannel and corduroy, pumpkin spice and s'mores. Sunny days and crisp nights invite us to step outside to enjoy the changing colors of the leaves. While some may consider the maples of New England the leaf-peeping gold standard, others would give the prize to the aspens of the Rocky Mountains or the cypress trees of the South.

These bald cypress trees in Georgia turn brilliant shades of gold, orange, and crimson that rival their northern competitors. Most varieties of cypress are evergreen, but bald cypresses are deciduous—their lacy needles turn this vibrant copper color in autumn, fall in winter, then the trees grow a new set of needles in the spring. Bald cypresses are native to the southeastern US and flourish in the Mississippi River basin along the Gulf Coast. They're a familiar sight in the bayous of Louisiana and also grow in the coastal plains of the mid-Atlantic, like this regal grove. Bald cypresses thrive in wet conditions like riverbanks and swamps. Commonly reaching well over 100 feet tall, these slow growers provide important habitat for amphibians, fish, and birds, and they protect coastlines from erosion and flooding. If you're in the area this time of year, head to the swamp to see the autumn display before the gentle giants shed their fall outfits.